Bars, taverns, seek reprieve from sports kiosk ban

CARSON CITY — Bar and tavern owners made a late-session appeal to Nevada lawmakers Monday to try to keep sports betting kiosks, at least for the time being.

The Nevada Restricted Gaming Association presented a proposed amendment to two kiosk-closing bills that would keep them operating until an interim study is completed in 2015, giving lawmakers data to better make gambling policy decisions.

“We would have to shut ours down — then there would be a study about a technology that isn’t being used,” Sean Higgins, representing the association, told members of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

The amendment would allow operation of about 80 kiosks through July 1, 2015, while the study is conducted on the devices and the differences between restricted and non-restricting gaming establishments.

But Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, chairwoman of the committee, contended the amendment would create a monopoly for existing operators. Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, the sponsor of AB360, which would create the interim study, agreed.

“The proposed amendment from the opposition does indeed create a monopoly,” Horne said. “I don’t believe we need an additional two years and I certainly don’t believe we should allow more in.”

Restricted gambling license holders are limited to no more than 15 slot or video machines. But in recent years, sports betting kiosks have joined the mix.

The Nevada Resort Association, a trade group representing the state’s largest casino resorts, argues that the kiosks cross the line from slot and video poker machines and enter a realm of sports books reserved for big casinos that hold non-restricted gambling licenses.

Unlike the sports books of large casinos where people can walk up and place a bet, the kiosks require users to create accounts for wagers and winnings to be charged and deposited, and for that reason they are not the same, Higgins said.

“Kiosks are nothing more than a communication device,” he told committee members.

Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, has helped guide a similar bill, SB416, through the Legislature at the request of the resort association. That bill was heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday, and Higgins proposed a similar amendment to that legislation.

Neither bill would stop the system of betting from accounts, but could eliminate just one component because gamblers can place the same bets from apps on an IPad or smartphone, Higgins said.

But the breadth of bets capable of being made from the machines, as well as the potential of jobs being lost as a result of emerging kiosk systems, drew skepticism from the Assembly’s Democratic leadership.

“I’m not about technology taking away jobs,” said Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas.

In addition to the sections dealing with kiosks, AB360 also requires restricted gambling establishments to have at least 2,500 square feet for patrons, a permanent bar and a restaurant that meets certain standards.

Allowing restricted licensees to compete on the same playing field as the larger casinos without requiring the same taxes could dissuade larger companies from putting more resources into the Nevada gambling market, Horne said.

“Why would they put a $1 billion investment when they are going to compete against restricted licensees across the street and in the neighborhood?” Horne said. “That investment and jobs that would create are put at risk if we do not set clear rules about what you can do at each location.”

No action was taken Monday on either bill.

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